May 272018

When Steve Chirico was elected mayor of Naperville in 2015, it was a declaration that doing business in Naperville was about to change; Naperville was now going to be lead by a successful businessman. A little over three years of Chirico’s first term and a number of changes are apparent, including running the City of Naperville as an efficient business. Some of the more noticeable improvements include:

  • Demonstrating accountability
  • Building trust
  • Maximizing relationships
  • Managing performance
  • Driving change
  • Thinking critically
  • Managing execution
  • Improving communication

The first change occurred at the beginning of the very first city council meeting when Mayor Chirico called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM sharp. No more starting council meetings five or ten minutes late; being punctual was the new order of business. This was a major change from previous mayoral administrations when meetings would start in the vicinity of the start time which was always late. Punctuality (respect for other peoples time) now became a priority. You can’t run a successful business if the sign shows you’re open at 9:00AM and the doors don’t get unlocked until 9:10, or the phone is ringing and no one is there to answer it.

You would think that by now, Naperville council members would know they better be ready to do the ‘peoples business’ when roll call is announced, but unfortunately there’s typically someone stumbling their way to their seat at the dais during roll call. At the last meeting Naperville councilman John Krummen was nowhere to be seen as his name was called during roll call:

There is no doubt that Krummen is a very important person with places to go, people to see, and things to do. Krummen would be the first to agree with that, so being late or a no-show goes with his territory. The good news for Krummen is that he’s not the only person who was a no-show for a roll call

The difference is that Bueller had a really good reason to miss roll call; you can’t beat fun at the old ball park.

May 202018

Kudos to Naperville Finance Director Rachel Mayer for ‘coming clean’ during Naperville’s May 15 city council meeting, regarding the recent utility billing error which was the focus of Watchdog’s last posting. It’s always refreshing when someone (especially in government) can ‘own up’ to making an error, and in this case it was a “90% error”, not so much the 10% error.

Watch and listen as the Finance Director owns accountability and more importantly discusses with Mayor Steve Chirico, and Naperville council member Rebecca Obarski what can be done to avoid the mistake going forward:

The error in billing was simply a mistake. Mistakes happen. We all make them. I once heard, and firmly believe that we are 10% of what happens to us, and 90% how we respond to it. The 10% was the billing error, and the 90% was the city not communicating about the error with the rate payers. Now with Finance Director addressing the issue, the “90%” has been rectified, and the opportunity for improvement exists.

Good for the City. Good for Rachel Mayer. And dilly, dilly for the rate payers.

May 132018

Is it possible that Naperville city officials have little if any respect for its residents? If sending out incorrect utility bills twice to over two-thousand residents is a measurement, then city officials appear to have no respect for the time residents invest in figuring out their utility bills. I happened to be one of the 2,000+ residents receiving the incorrect bills.

It was a Saturday and I came home after supporting a family member in the hospital, so it was a long but necessary day. I tend to be OC so I always have to go thru the mail before turning out the lights at night. I opened my City of Naperville utility bill and the bill was dated 4/21/18 with a due date of 3/14/18. Even more baffling was the bill showed a payment of $1,591.32 with a credit balance of -$407.81. How could the due date be before I received the bill, and how could they be showing a a huge payment being made that I didn’t make, especially for that dollar amount?

I was alarmed thinking that I had sent the wrong check to the City, which meant that another creditor didn’t get the check they should have received. It looked as if I had some explaining to do to someone if I could figure out who that ‘someone’ was. I invested a few hours trying to solve the brain teaser, with no success.

On Monday I called the City finance department and they said there was a billing error, and that I would be receiving a corrected bill. That same day I received the ‘new and improved ‘ bill but this one was screwed up too. The bill was dated 4/25/18 with a due date of 4/14/18 and again the dollar amounts made no sense.

The following day (Tuesday) I went to the city with bills-in-hand to get clarification of what I owe, and when is it due, and this is when it really gets interesting. The cashier made her best effort to explain the situation but apparently her supervisor or the department head gave her no help in advance for fielding questions. She said it was a ‘computer problem’ and only ‘couple of people were billed incorrectly’. I asked her if anybody oversees the billing, and she responded, ‘nobody oversees the billing’. I wanted to help the staff member, so I asked if I could speak to a supervisor, who happened to be five feet away and heard the conversation.

The supervisor said, “the billing team noticed the wrong billing date was entered and without a garbage fee” and that there are 22 billing cycles with each cycle having about 2,200 customers (bills). I asked if there was an announcement made anywhere informing residents of the error, and she said “the decision was made to do nothing (no communication) and wait for the new billing”.

So the City rather than letting the good folks of Naperville know, decided to let the folks figure it out themselves, or have city staff members (like the cashier I spoke with) deal with hundreds of phone calls, or people like me appearing at the Municipal Center trying to figure out what was going on. I asked the supervisor if the City had learned anything from this error, and she replied, “the utility billing group had conversations about changing the process”. That’s code for ‘the city didn’t learn anything.

City officials made absolutely no effort to inform residents of the error. Nothing was announced at the city council meeting, no mention on the city website, nothing on TV public access station, nothing mentioned by Naperville’s 10th council member (The Naperville Sun). Shame on city officials for doing nothing to help the rate payers understand the situation., Apparently transparency has no action and no words.

May 062018

How much stuff is too much stuff on the sidewalks of downtown Naperville? That is a question yet to be answered by the Naperville city council. City officials are pushing the envelope to see how many people, tables, chairs, benches, signs, and huge pieces of ‘artwork’ they can jam onto the sidewalks and still have some semblance of movement within the mass. Which will come to a complete stop first, pedestrians on the sidewalk or vehicles in the street? If the goal is to stop speeding, or making it easier for Naperville’s finest to apprehend the bad guys after a robbery, city officials are making it happen. Not much if anything will be moving at a quick pace in downtown Naperville.

For a number of years the Downtown Naperville Alliance has promoted an annual themed sculpture series. This year heart-shaped sculptures will be on display throughout the downtown area from June through September. In previous years other series have included chairs, book benches, cows, baseballs, classic cars and golf balls to name a few.

The concept is admirable, businesses or sponsors pay for the sculptures, artists are commissioned to design and paint or decorate the themed items, they are then placed in the downtown area, and afterward returned to the sponsors to sell, auction, or donate to non-for-profit organizations for fund raising. So to that extent, it’s a cool idea, however with most cool ideas, at some point it crosses over to being a bit much or too much.

Downtown Naperville is blessed and cursed at the same time with excessiveness. By adding 18 heart-shaped sculptures the size of VW Beetles (actually 52 inches high and 52 inches wide) on sidewalks, it’s going to make congested areas even more difficult to navigate. When city officials have to measure the distance between a store front or restaurant to the curb to see if a baby stroller and wheel chair can safely navigate side-by side without one or the other spilling into the street, you know you have reached the point of too much.